Dept of State 2021 Participant Survey Results – HF Screening

Dept of State 2021 Participant Survey Results – HF Screening

In the spring and fall of 2021, the US Department of State surveyed all secondary school J-1 visa exchange participants. Over 50% of the 2020-21 and 2021-22 participants responded, roughly 11,000 participants. While we don’t know how many of these respondents were AFS participants, we’d like to share with you some key results of these surveys, and what we know about the AFS experience in comparison, to inform your work as a Hosting Volunteer.

Input from the DoS re: Concerning Host Family and School Placements

DoS staff report that cases they reviewed during Fall 2021 raised concerns about both host family and school placements and the team there provided the following examples of situations where greater scrutiny may be required to adequately screen the host family or school placement.   

  • Host parents with multiple young children in smaller host family homes.  While neither of these characteristics, individually, is necessarily cause for concern, in conjunction they can raise questions about the suitability of a particular host family.  For example, if host parents have four or more young children in a three-bedroom home, such a placement could be concerning as an exchange student (or two) could displace their host siblings. Furthermore, such a small home and busy host family may simply have too much going on to provide an appropriate environment for an exchange student.
  • A single adult placement with no children in the home, employed in a profession with shift work that may be particularly affected by the pandemic.  Similar to the example cited above, a single adult host does not necessarily constitute a troublesome placement. Neither does someone employed in the medical field.  However, a single adult with no children working as a nurse may not be an appropriate placement, especially during a pandemic, if the hos parent t is absent from the home for long periods of time. 
  • Concerning school placements due to difficulties with securing school acceptances.  When a sponsor identifies a positive host family placement, it may be tempting to accept a particular school placement in order to utilize the host family.  However, placing exchange students in small, rural schools that are located far from the host family home can lead to various issues, including challenges with making and seeing friends, inability to participate in extracurricular activities, etc.  We remind sponsors to consider both the suitability of the host family and school when evaluating a potential placement.
  • Placement on the outskirts of a team’s geographic area. In addition to the above circumstances, we at AFS have found placements made on the outskirts of a team, in areas far from most other hosted students and volunteers, can be problematic. While compliant, with a liaison within 120 miles, the lack of other volunteers, host families and participants within a closer radius can result in host families and students feeling unsupported by AFS, make it more challenging to fulfill required in-home and in-person contacts and visits, and for the student and family to participate in orientations. The scenario can also result in a non-compliant move in the event of an emergency host family change. While we recognize and appreciate the efforts to expand the reach of AFS, it must not be done at the expense of the experience of any one participant.Please keep the above scenarios in mind when recruiting host families and review the resources available on MyAFS to aid in the host family screening process. Always share any concern about a host family applicant with staff. Sometimes any one concern will not warrant a host family denial but if the concern is not raised with staff, it can’t be factored into the overall assessment of the application and other supporting materials, including information to which only staff have access. AFS staff rely on volunteers to express any concern so that an appropriate decision can be made regarding the family’s suitability to host with AFS at the time of application.

In closing, we thank all volunteers for your contributions to building intercultural understanding and peace and making a rich and rewarding AFS experience possible for thousands of host families, sending families, inbound and outbound participants across the USA and around the globe!

For survey results regarding participant support, please click here.